deer scaping on tree and damaging bark

Animal Repellents and Plant Protection

We all love animals but sometimes they go where we don’t want them to or damage our landscapes and gardens. They can chew, eat, scratch, and damage plants throughout the year. When animals get hungry, they may not spare much. Protecting your plant investment is about protecting them from extensive damage that will severely stress or kill your plant. If you end up with a few bites are scratches, luckily your plants will be fine and will heal. Very rarely do you see an unscathed plant in nature. They are tough and want to survive.

There are animal and human safe products available to repel mice, squirrels, voles, moles, raccoons, deer, rabbits…pretty much any animal you may encounter in MN.

First we will look at what animal damage looks like so you know what you’re dealing with if you see it.

What does animal damage look like?

rabbit clean-cut chew marks on a tree trunk
Rabbit chew marks on a tree.

The two most common animals that damage our plants are deer and small rodents like rabbits and voles. Deer will rub against the bark and leave gashes (see main post image). They will even chew off the top of shrub branches.

Rodent damage will have cleaner cuts. Rabbits can chew down into the cambium layer of shrubs and trees. The cambium layer is where water and nutrients are taken up. If the damage to the cambium layer goes around the entire branch or trunk, it will kill the plant. Voles can eat the roots of plants, bark, and dig tunnels that wreck lawn grass.

It’s important to reapply repellents as directed and after heavy snowfall. Make sure rabbits can’t get above the tree guards to nibble on the bark higher up the tree.

Scented Repellents

Various sprays and pelleted product contain scents and tastes that the animals are repelled by. The products contain all natural ingredients. They could contain clove oil, cayenne, peppermint oil, spearmint oil, putrefied egg, and possibly others. All of them are safe to use around your home and gardens.

Unfortunately, if animals are hungry enough, which can happen during harsh winters, they will eat despite any offending smells that typically keep them away.

Examples of a few animal repellents.

Animals can also get used to certain stinky smells. Alternate products that contain different ingredients to avoid them becoming used to the smell. Repellents will also need to be reapplied frequently and the frequency depends on the product instructions and weather.

Physical Barriers May Be the Best Bet in Extreme Cases

The use of physical barriers may be the best method in extreme and harsh winters or you have an abundant population of animals.

One common physical protection is a white plastic tree guard. They have two benefits. One is to prevent sun scald and frost cracks and the other is to protect tree bark from deer and rabbit damage. This is a great physical barrier to use every winter especially on young trees that have thin tender bark. There are also mesh plastic tree guards to put around tree trunks that can be used year-round as they provide adequate air flow around the trunk. Those will not prevent winter weather damage.

If it seems like deer and rabbits have already made your yard into a safe spot, you may have to start using repellents in combination with physical barriers on the perimeters of your yard to teach them it isn’t a good spot to feed and make a home.

White corrugated plastic tree guard.

What To Do After the Damage Is Done

As mentioned above, if rabbits or any animal chews around the cambium layer of a tree or shrub, the shrub branch or tree will die. All is not lost if you have still have part of the cambium layer.

In early spring you can prune off the branches of the shrubs that are dead. You can wait to see if leaves bud out before any pruning as well. If it doesn’t bud, it’ll be time to prune it off. If they didn’t damage all the branches, the shrub will survive. It may take a couple years to fill back in depending on the shrub and you may need to do selective pruning to reshape it.

In the case of a tree damage around the entire trunk, see if it leafs out in the spring and if it doesn’t, it is most likely dead or will die.

If you have an animal eat your herbaceous perennials in the early spring, they can recover if they didn’t eat them all the way to the ground. Even if they did, it still may survive if it’s in it’s active growing period and has a well-established root system. Another reason to make sure you properly water your new plants because the healthier they are, the more stress they can endure and survive.

Prune away branches that have bark damage around the entire branch.

Repel Mice and other Rodents from Nesting

You may have a barn, camper, boat, wood piles, sheds, decks etc. that you want to keep little critters like mice away during the winter and summer. There are repellents like Mouse Magic and Rat Magic that are safe to use around children and pets and won’t harm rodents or anything that eats them like some poisons do. They smell nice as well!

If you distribute the packs or granules around the areas that they may want to nest, along wall edges, and where they may enter, it should repel them away from those areas. If you have a lot of rodents, you may need to use more.

Rat Magic has a few more ingredients in it to help repel squirrels and chipmunks as well. Try sprinkling it around your garden if you have them digging up your bulbs or creating holes for their food stash.

staff holding a drummersbox with annuals and vegetable plants

Hardening Off Plants

When we have the benefit of full greenhouse grown plants, we need to make sure that they don’t get too stressed when planted in a different environment. Many times in the spring, this process is much quicker when the temps are cooler. The hardening off process is super simple and easy to do!

Hardening off of plants is the process of strengthening tender seedling and plants grown inside, in greenhouses, or under shade cloth, like our perennials. Hardening off thickens the cuticle of their leaves to avoid access moisture loss. If you are planting potatoes, onions, asparagus, strawberry bare roots, or anything completely under the soil you do not need to take these steps.

Slowly acclimating plants to lower temps, less humidity, and strong winds will reduce stress to your plant. Even if it shows small signs of stress, it’ll be fine!

How to harden off plants grown inside or in greenhouses:

Hardening off takes 1 to 3 weeks depending on the weather and your available time. When there is a very windy day, or quick rise in temps on clear sunny day avoid direct exposure when you are going through the hardening off process.

Each day after bringing seedlings outside, bring back inside and place in a warm spot.

ONE WEEK HARDENING OFF TIMELINE:
*Best to do this when temps are 50F or above. Cold-tolerant plants can handle ~40F temps when starting this process.

1st day: Put your plants outside in a shady spot for 1-2 hours.
2nd day: Place in dappled sun or early morning sun for 1-2 hours.
3rd day: Place in dappled sun or full sun for 2-3 hours.
4th to 7th day: Increase full sun an hour or two each day. If overnight temps are warm enough (~50F) between the 4th-7th day, it’s usually safe to leave them outside in their containers.

Acclimate slower if you see signs of stress which can be quickly wilting in the sun, scorched leaves, and drooping. Movement from the wind is beneficial, but not in excess to cause complete drooping over for long periods.

Make sure you check soil moisture frequently. Water when the soil is partially dry so your plants starts developing roots that reach further down to a water source.

How to harden off perennials grown under sun protection:

When you buy plants grown under shade cloth that have already been exposed to wind and fluctuating temperatures, hardening off is focused on increasing sun exposure. Perennials grown under shade cloth (protection from direct sun), have already been exposed to fluctuating temperatures and wind.

If you see a plant grown under shade protection, you should acclimate them to their preferred sun exposure over a few days especially if the days are sunny and hot. Follow the first 3 steps above but keep the plant outside during the process. During cool spring weather or when the forecast calls for consecutive cloudy days it’s fine to plant in it’s permanent spot.

Transplanting

Transplanting can be a little stressful to plants. When you move plants to their permanent spot choose a cloudy day. Don’t forget to mulch around your plants to help with water retention as the top couple inches can dry out within a day if it’s windy and sunny.

Water your plants at 1″ – 1.5″ a week which is around 10 cups of water per square foot. If there is rain, you can reduce manual watering.

botanical interests flower seed packets

Easy Fall Planting

Fall is the second-best time to plant – with some saying it’s the best!

We typically have late-summer and fall sales. Check out current plant sales here.

LATE-FALL SOWN PERENNIAL SEEDS

Sow perennial plant seeds, that need stratification, after a hard frost – below 25 F. Stratification is the process of seeds being in a cold environment and then breaking dormancy once the weather warms. This ensures that they will not sprout until the following spring.

Be sure to mark the spot you planted. If we have a dry winter and less rain in the spring, make sure to water your seeds in the spring to keep soil moist.

Perennial plants to sow after a hard frost:
  • Blue and Breezy Flax Seeds
  • Forget-Me-Not
  • Hyssop
  • Lavender
  • Russell Lupine Blend
  • Milkweed
  • Penstemon
  • Sundial Lupine Bluebonnet
  • Colorado Blend Yarrow

LATE-FALL SOWN ANNUAL SEEDS

You’ll get earlier blooms and reduce time in the late winter/early spring sowing seeds indoors. The moisture from melting snow will greatly reduce your need to water in the spring.

Tips for sowing annual seed:

Sow the seeds after a killing freeze and before snowfall. You may also sow in late-winter between snow fall. The snow buries the seed and insulates them, helping to retain moisture.

Mix the seed with a bit of sand before sowing. This helps the seed spread evenly and gives you a better visual of where you have sown.

Mark where you planted with labeled garden stakes to avoid damaging emerging flowers.

Annuals plants to sow after a hard frost:
  • Bachelor Buttons
  • California Bluebells
  • Bluebonnet
  • Larkspur
  • Poppy

Info Source: Botanical Interests

GARLIC

Garlic is one of the easiest to grow crops. Garlic is planted in the fall. They start to grow their roots this fall and then emerge next spring. We recommend adding compost to your planting area two weeks before planting your garlic.

Join us for our How to Grow Garlic class September 24th!

FALL-PLANTED FLOWER BULBS

Bulbs are really as easy as dig, drop, and done. When planting, make sure the soil is well-draining (soil doesn’t stay soggy more than a day) and use Bulb Tone to get their roots off to a healthy start before the ground freezes. Amend your soil with compost or top soil if it’s compacted or not well-draining.

If you have a presence of voles, mice, chipmunks, or squirrels we recommend planting them with a granular animal repellent.

LANDSCAPE PLANTS

Fall is a wonderful time to plant in you landscape. The heat of the summer is done and the cooler weather is less stressful for the plants during transplanting. The soil also stays moist longer, there is less disease and pest stressors, and your plants will put more energy into root growth than foliage.

We recommend mulching around your new landscape plants, leaving a couple inches open around the stems to help retain moisture when they are establishing themselves.

PLANT TREES, SHRUBS, AND EVERGREENS

Trees, shrubs, and evergreens can be planted up to 6 weeks before ground freeze (average ground freeze is beginning of Dec.). If the trees or shrubs are dormant by the time of planting, you may not need to water if the soil stays slightly moist. Make sure to mulch 2-3 inches around the root zone and wrap your tree saplings Oct. 31st or as soon as possible after that.

Deeply water your plants until the ground freezes. Only water when the top 2 – 3 inches are dry. It’s usually 5 gallons of water every week to two weeks depending on your soil type, size of the plant, and weather.

PLANT PERENNIALS

You can plant perennials up to 6 weeks before ground freeze (average ground freeze is beginning of Dec.) but sooner the better for transplanting success. Just make sure they are watered until freeze and heavily mulched after ground freeze to protect their roots.

When planting, mix in a slow release fertilizer – like Biotone. When the top couple inches of soil are dry, that’s when you should water. Water deeply so the plant roots reach deeper into the soil and create a more robust root system before winter weather.

DIVIDING PERENNIALS

Dividing perennials (PDF List of perennials and dividing time):
These cooler days are perfect for dividing perennials. Divide or move perennials if they are crowded or not performing well in their original spot.

A good rule of thumb to follow:
“Blooms late-summer/fall, divide them in spring. Blooms spring, divide in the fall.”

REDUCE WINTER DAMAGE

If you have issues with rabbits or deer around, get a hard plastic mesh tree guard. You’ll be happy you did because if animals chew around the entire tree diameter, it’ll cut off nutrients to the tree, which will cause the plant to die. Shrubs and evergreens can also experience animal damage from hungry animals so use a granular or spray animal repellent or fencing.

Here is an extra note about evergreens. It’s very important evergreens have adequate water before ground freeze or you may experience browning of needles the next spring. Evergreens do better when planted early fall instead of late fall to help them take up moisture before freezing. They slowly lose water from their needles over winter and if they are in an area of high winds and/or bright, all day sun, it dries them out quicker.

Read more about evergreen and tree winter protection.

SOWING TURF GRASS

Mid-August through mid-September is an ideal time to start new grass from seed. We carry high quality seed from Ramy Seeds in Mankato. If it seems daunting to keep the soil moist to sprout grass this time of year or it’s too late, you can wait until late fall – after we have our first frosts – to sow seeds that will sprout in the spring when the weather warms and spring rains help keep the seed moist.

PLANT COVER CROPS AFTER HARVEST

Cover crops are also an option if you are done with your garden space until next spring or before you plant garlic in late Sept. or Oct. It’s best to start growing cover crops as soon as you can but many crops will grow into late fall. Plant a quick growing crop like peas, oats, radishes, or buckwheat.

A cover crop is used to slow erosion from wind and rain, improve soil health, smother weeds, help control pests and diseases, break up compacted soil, and increase biodiversity. Using a cover crop can reduce the amount of compost you need to prepare your garden soil for next year.

Read our post about Living Soil which covers best practices for healthier soil and head over to the University of MN Extension article with a cover crops selector tool to choose a cover crop for your soil goals. For example: If you fertilize with liquid fertilizers you probably have excess nitrogen in your soil or if you grew peas ( nitrogen fixers) in an area then you’d choose a cover crop that adds other nutrients.

Japanese Beetles on Rose Bush

Minimize Japanese Beetle Damage

japanese beetle damaged leaf

Leaf eaten by Japanese Beetles and looks like lace.

Japanese Beetles are serious pests in both the adult and the larval grub stages. We will cover identification and steps to minimize Japanese Beetle damage from adults and grubs.

The adult beetles are above ground, feeding, mating and laying eggs from mid-June to early August. The white ‘C’ shaped grubs spend the rest of the growing season eating the roots under your lawn.

If you do notice leaves that look like green lace, that’s a sign you have Japanese Beetles in your yard. Luckily healthy trees and shrubs will survive these feedings. Focus your mitigation efforts on immature or heavily damaged plants as well as fruits, vegetables and herbs first. These immature plants can tolerate some leaf feeding but severe damage may affect plant growth and reduce yield.

Grub identifier – other beetle grubs can look like Japanese Beetle grubs.

C-shaped, white to cream-colored grubs with a distinct tan-colored head. They will be 1/8th inch up to 1 inch long. Japanese Beetle grubs look like other white grubs and can be distinguished by the hairs on the end of their body.

japanese beetle grub

Photo courtesy : UMN Extension

 

 

Steps to minimize Japanese Beetle damage and population:

Start managing their population right when you start seeing leaf damage. The adult beetles will be feeding up to 8 weeks starting around mid-June.

Cultural Control Methods

  1. Incorporate plants around your favorite landscape and garden plants that repel Japanese beetles such as catnip, chives, garlic, odorless marigold, nasturtium, and white geranium. See the list of plants at the end of this post that Japanese Beetles prefer.
  2. Natural predators to the beetle are birds, spiders, and possibly raccoons, moles, and skunks. The Starling bird is it’s greatest predator. Create a yard that attracts these predators so they can help you with minimizing damage and the beetle population.
  3. Continually harvest your fruits and vegetables when they are ripe to reduce the feeding from the beetles.

Physical Removal

Browse your garden daily, focusing on the plants they are attracted to or the ones you want to minimize damage. Hold a small bucket of soapy water under the beetle and tap or shake the critter into it. You may have to grab them instead if they are flying away.

They naturally fall to the ground as a defense mechanism and easily get lost in the soil. Visit your plants as often as possible and inspect carefully.

Since they are attracted to the scent of other Japanese Beetles, do not squish them!

Netting around your plants

If a tree or shrub is no longer in bloom, you can use a fine mesh barrier to cover the plant. If the plant is blooming and needs to be pollinated, hand-picking is going to be the only option. You don’t want to spray insecticides on your plant at that time.

Japanese Beetle Traps

If you can place traps far away from gardens and landscape plants, this can help populations migrate away from valuable landscape plants. Keep in mind, they can fly 10-15 miles to a new place to feed and you may just be attracting them to your area. Do not place the traps near your favorite trees and garden. The USDA recommends putting them at the border of your property and throughout the community.

Biological Controls

“Two natural enemies of Japanese beetles have been released in Minnesota. The fly Istocheta aldrichi lays eggs on adult Japanese beetles in summer, whereas the wasp Tiphia vernalis parasitizes grubs in the spring. Although both natural enemies became established here, neither is very abundant and they have little impact on Japanese beetle populations.” – UMN Extension

To focus on killing the grubs, start treating yards and gardens with grub killers in early July. Killing grubs under the lawn this summer will not affect the number of beetles this year, but next year the number of beetles that emerge from your lawn should be reduced. Killing grubs will reduce damage to your turf but adjacent properties may still have Japanese Beetles so you may not see reduction of adult beetles.

Bt

Bacillus thuringiensis galleriae is another natural way to kill the grubs.  Bt is a naturally occurring soil bacteria that eats Japanese Beetle grubs before they can develop into beetles. It can last up to one to two weeks and it is not harmful to bees.

Milky Spore

Milky Spore is a biological agent that is specific to Japanese Beetle grubs and will not harm other grubs. It also does not harm earthworms, and other insects such as bees and butterflies, pets, humans or other animals. It does need one or more applications annually for three to five years to adequately inoculate your lawn, but once appropriate levels are in place, no further treatment is needed for 10 years.

Nematodes

Nemaknight nematode bottles being held out.Nematode biological insect control is 100% pesticide free, organic, and pet friendly for indoor houseplants as well as gardens. NemaKnights Grubs, Weevil & Borers product has shelf-stable encapsulated S.carpocapsae & S.feltiae nematodes that will attack grubs in the soil outside.

In the spring, if you notice unexplained small patches of dead brown grass, you can dig up part of the area and you may find the culprits. Grubs! These areas can be spot treated with nematodes to control the grub population that will eventually go into their adult phase and hatch out of the ground.

Another option is to treat around plants that you know have been attacked by Japanese Beetles, Weevils, or Borers in late spring/early summer while the adults are active. Early fall, while the grubs are young, is another good time treat young grubs while they are moving around the soil and finding a place deeper in the soil before winter hits.

An important step for success with nematodes is to keep the soil moist for three days as well as apply the outdoor nematodes at night since sun and heat will kill them before working their way into the soil.

Japanese Beetle Insecticides

It’s the law to read and use insecticide according to the label and apply only as recommended. Make sure that it can be used around the plants you wish to treat and for the insects you want to control. We recommend avoiding insecticides when possible.

Systemic

A granular or liquid Systemic Insecticide containing Imidacloprid and dinotefuran, both neonicotinoids, can be applied to lawn one time per year. This seems like an easy way to minimize damage but these are highly toxic to all pollinators. The plant roots absorb the insecticide and will poison the beetles and any insects that munch on the plant. Apply when the plant is not in bloom to prevent pollinator death and 4-5 feet away from flowering plants.

Topical

Topical insecticides, like Eight, which contains Permethrin (high toxicity to fish and bees), can be sprayed on vegetables, fruits, flowers, nuts, lawns, and outside surfaces of buildings. Neem oil is an organic and less toxic insecticide that is an alternative. If you are spraying edible plants, be sure the product is labeled for those plants. Be aware, however, that these are ‘broad-spectrum’ insecticides that affect many kind of insects, including bees and butterflies, so use them cautiously, applying only when and where needed. Keep these insecticides away from ponds and streams as well.

Professional Application of Insecticides

There are insecticides that can only be applied by professionals, like chlorantraniliprole, that have a lower risk to harm other beneficial insects.

Japanese Beetle Resistant and Vulnerable Plants

Image source: Proven Winners

list of plants that are either resistant or vulnerable to japanese beetles

Here is another great resource from the USDA on Japanese Beetles, their life cycle, plants that are not susceptible to damage and ones that are, and much more! USDA Japanese Beetle Handbook (pdf)

Please let us know your questions or if you need help fighting off these buggers! We have many products in store to help minimize Japanese Beetle damage so come on in and we will fight this battle together.

dormant grass

LAWN DORMANCY AND WATER CONSERVATION.

IT’S NOT DEAD. IT’S DORMANT.

It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s an important message. If you see brown turf grass like this *image*, don’t worry. What we should worry about is what drought means for the water supply and our ground water level.

We’re happy to give you good news!
The same as dormancy during the winter months, turf grass goes dormant to survive drought conditions to conserve nutrients and energy. The grass won’t die unless there is a very long period of drought and extreme heat. We understand a lawn can be an important space for play and relaxation, and you don’t want your grass to die. To prevent death with as little water as possible, water turf grass with ½ inch every two weeks. This ½ inch of water will not green up the grass but will keep the crowns alive.

The responsibility of landowners is to conserve water during drought because the same water that is used for watering lawns is the same water all families drink. Turf grass doesn’t need the water, but we certainly do. In addition to the importance of conserving water for human consumption, reduced manual watering will save time and money.

Another issue during drought is the mistiming of watering during heat and drought. The mid-afternoon sun and wind evaporation negate watering efforts. That’s literally pouring money down the drain. When watering turf, water between 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. to avoid water loss.
After a drought period, depending on the variety of grass, it should green up within 3 to 4 weeks if accumulative rain is 1 inch a week.

What about water conservation for gardens?
The answer to that question is about perceived value and can be subjective. Watering your vegetables, fruits, and newly installed landscape plants is often viewed as important as these are valuable resources and adds biodiversity to the area that turf grass does not provide.

Let’s turn the problem into a solution!
If you’d also like to conserve water and still enjoy a garden, increase the square footage of hearty perennial landscape plants or Xeriscaping, a technical name for planting for non-irrigation gardens. For example, native plants have adapted to an area and can handle periods of drought because of their very long tap roots. There are many other plants, once mature, that create a hands-off landscape and will make gardening more affordable!

Use it or lose it.
Harvesting rainwater in rain barrels and cisterns can trap water for later use or create a swale or basin in your yard to direct rainwater to specific areas to make rain the primary irrigation method and reduce manual watering. Depending on the harvesting method, 1000s of gallons of water can be utilized from one rain event!

For ideas on plants to add to your landscape, read Top 8 Tough As Nails Perennials⁠ ( that also are pollinator-friendly! ) and our list of drought-tolerant plants.

tomato

Blight Resistant Tomatoes and Prevention

All fresh tomatoes are great but those of you who are looking for tomatoes that are blight resistant, look no further!

Brief description of blight:

Blight causes sudden yellowing, wilting, spotting, or browning of new leaf growth, fruit, stems, or the whole plant, depending on the severity. It spreads by fungal spores that are carried by wind, water, tools, and insects from infected plants, and then deposited on the plant or dead plant matter on the soil. The disease requires moisture to progress, so when moisture or rain comes in contact with fungal spores, they reproduce. The spores thrive in humidity and the spores can then be transmitted through the wind easily.

Blight can infect many different plants, i.e.  apples, potatoes, and cucumbers, and can be caused by various fungal strains like Alternaria solani, a.k.a. Early Blight, or Phytophthora infestans, a.k.a. Late Blight.

Prevention is key, even for blight resistant tomatoes. Copper fungicide, or Fung-onil can help slow the growth once you see signs of blight or spray on the plant prior (about 2 weeks) before predicted hot and humid weather.

earl blight on tomato leaf

Example of early blight on a tomato leaf. Source: Univ. of MN Extension

Best practices to prevent blight:

  • Healthy plants are less effected by blight. Provide proper water and nutrients. Tomatoes are heavy feeders. Tomato Tone or Plant Tone are good options when you are first planting your tomatoes. If you get a lot of foliage growth, fertilize with less nitrogen and more phosphorus, 5-10-5.
  • Mulch around your plant to prevent soil from splashing up onto the foliage.
  • Water your plant at the base and avoid the foliage. Morning is best so it can dry throughout the day.
  • Provide proper spacing between plants and air flow but using cages.
  • Sanitize all garden tools between plants
  • Clean up any dead infected foliage around the plant and either burn or put into the trash. Do not compost!
  • Prune the lower branches of tomatoes a foot above the ground to help reduce water splashing on the leaves.  Prune further if you see any disease spots on lower leaves.

Don’t let diseases deter you from certain plants since many plants can get blight without proper care, prevention, or crop rotation. If you have been effected by blight, we understand the frustration, so try one of these blight resistant varieties listed below. If we have especially hot and wet weather, we recommend having a fungicide on hand so if you start seeing blight, you can treat a.s.a.p.

BLIGHT RESISTANT TOMATOES

Variety

 Best Used For

Location*

Growth Habit

Beefmaster Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Better Boy Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Big Boy Slicer Container Determinate
Big Daddy Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Heirloom Brandywine Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Brandywine Yellow Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Champion II Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Cherokee Purple Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Early Girl Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Rutgers Slicer Garden Determinate
Supersteak Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Gladiator Slicer/Paste Garden Indeterminate
Juliet Snacking Garden Indeterminate
Sunsugar Snacking Garden Indeterminate
SuperSweet 100 Snacking Garden Indeterminate
Yellow Pear Snacking Garden Indeterminate
Big Beef Salsa Garden Indeterminate
La Roma Paste Container Determinate
San Marzano Canning/Chopped Garden Indeterminate

 

*All listed container plants will also do well in the ground. These tomato plants tend to have a more compact size.

Determinate = Plant grows to a certain size and stops, bearing most of it’s fruit within a one month period. Great for small spaces or containers. Some will grow tall and still need tomato cages.

Find pictures to help identify blight, from University of Minnesota Extension, as well as more management information.

marigolds

Digging Deeper – Late Spring Gardening

“What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.”
–  Gertrude Jekyll, On Gardening

This post is about late spring/early summer gardening tips and things to look for that may be showing up soon in your garden.

  1. Fertilizer

    Don’t forget water soluble fertilizers for container plants. Container plants are in a potting soil that do not contain enough nutrients for all season.  Depending on the plant, you will need to add fertilizer to the water or use a slow release fertilize like Osmocote. Follow directions of product and individual plant needs for fertilization. Top dressing containers with compost can also be done to add some nutrients.

  2. Boost for New & Established Plants

    Most in-ground soils will benefit from adding organic material like compost and a starting fertilizer like Biotone Starter before planting or Plant Tone after planting. Top dressing the established perennials/shrubs with compost in the spring will give them an extra boost of nutrients. Plants like butterfly bush, delphinium, and clematis like if you put a mound of compost around their root ball.

  3. Watering

    Newly planted plants in the ground need deep watering so their roots reach down and establish themselves before winter and reduces stress on the plants. Water deeply a couple times a week. If it rains a little (pay attention to how many inches you get with a rain gauge), you can water around your new plants a little more to get water deep into the soil. It helps you conserve water and save time watering. 1″ of water per week is the recommended amount of water. Pay attention to the soil and if it is wet looking, hold off for another day. Best method is to stick your finger in the soil and if it’s dry a couple inches down, it’s time to water.

  4. Weeding

    Remove weeds now while they are small, as they grow quickly. Weeding is easy when soil is damp since it’s easier to pull the whole plant including the roots. Be careful not to walk on soil around your plants to avoid compaction of the soil.

  5. Prevent Fungal Diseases

    With rain and warming weather you need to be proactive about fungal diseases. It’s best to prevent it, instead of treating it because once it starts, you can’t get rid of it completely. Treat your plants that have a higher chance of fungal issues with a fungicide before you see signs of it.  For example, tomatoes usually get blight so best to treat with Bonide Revitalize or Copper Fungicide before it starts. Make sure to water your plants at the base and water in the morning when possible so the water can dry before it cools off at night. Mulch around your plants as well to help prevent fungus from the soil splashing on your plants.

  6. Insect damage is going to start. Keep an eye on your plants for damage to their foliage. It’s important to remember, a little bit of insect damage is not bad and if you see an insect, it doesn’t mean they are bad. We need to move passed the thought that bugs are icky and nuisance. There are very important insects that are good for the garden and actually improve plant health.

    Look for these invasive species instead:
    Japanese Beetles: Metallic looking green/bronze beetles flying or munching on landscape plants. They love roses, hollyhock, cherry trees, plums, grapes, blackberries, and linden trees. They can be found snacking on other plants as well. Read more about them hereIncorporate plants that repel Japanese beetles such as catnip, chives, garlic, nasturtium, and white geranium around your susceptible plants. Jumping Worms: Although we haven’t had any recordings of jumping worms in our area, these can be very detrimental to lawns and gardens. There are sightings of these worms in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area so if you are doing any transplanting of plants from that area, purchases of mulches and soils, or any plant swap around our area. Read more about them here so you can know what to do to avoid them or if you see them, how to alert the U of MN Garden Extension. There are no proven ways to eradicate these worms yet.

Getting rid of insects isn’t always easy and great care should be taken if you choose to spray with insecticides, even ones labeled organic. It’s still an insecticide made to kill insects.

*Quick side note about fungus since we have been having cool springs the last couple years. With cool/wet weather you may encounter anthracnose on your plants. If you are seeing brown spots on trees and shrubs early in the spring it may be this.

all purpose grass seed

Early Spring Yard and Garden Tasks

The desire to start gardening and enjoy outside is hard to suppress. Each spring will bring us new weather patterns and it’s best to take Nature’s cues when it comes to accomplishing these yard and garden tasks

YARD AND GARDEN TASKS:

1. Wait to clean up dead perennial matter until temps are consistently around 55F-60F. Beneficial insects will be in their dormant state in leaf litter and dead perennial matter. You should wait to clean up dead plant material as late as possible into the spring.

You can top dress with compost as well as mulch around the root zone of your plants when you see perennials emerging.

2. Clean and sanitize your outdoor containers, bird baths, bird feeders, and garden tools. Check out the new garden decor and tools in store!

3. Prune off dead/damaged branches on shrubs and trees. Late winter/early spring is the best time to prune trees, before their buds are formed. Refer to our pruning guide in regards to shrubs and trees.

4. Clean debris from your vegetable garden and top dress the soil with compost at least two weeks before you plant. Avoid compaction of the soil by using designated walkways. Compaction of the soil will reduce the level of oxygen available for plant roots. Lightly till in compost if you notice your soil is compacted.

5. Early to Mid-April, depending on weather and ground temperature, is the best time to put down new grass seed or ground covers like clover. Wait to scatter seed until day temps are 60F+ consistently before spreading seed. Most seeds, including grass won’t germinate until the soil is 55F+. We carry bulk or bagged grass seed from Ramy Seed in Mankato. If you want to forego a conventional grass lawn, get a  wildflower seed mix and scatter the seed in mid to late April.

Please note, if you want to do a weed killer in the same area you want new grass, you will have to wait to over-seed grass until summer or fall. If seeding is more important – forgo the crabgrass or weed killer and just use a lawn food

6. Apply crabgrass killer and weed pre-emergents just before we have consistent 60F days. Most products last 6-8 weeks and timing the application with the weather is important or you may need to reapply. Weeds  germinate when soil is 55F. There are many turf products, likes Maxlawn Weed and Feed, that contain fertilizer as well as weed killers so you can accomplish both tasks if you have weeds throughout your lawn. Our staff can help you decide what is best depending on what you want to accomplish!

If you don’t mind weeds, use a lawn fertilizer around the time you have to mow for the first time.

PLANT THESE in your GARDEN EARLY TO MID-SPRING:

Summer blooming bulbs, potatoes, asparagus, strawberries, cold vegetable crops, and onion plants.

Plant summer bulbs when the soil has warmed to above 40F and the soil isn’t soggy. Usually early April through mid May depending on the spring weather. The soil should be rich and well-draining to avoid bulb rot if cooler temps come back.

Find growing instructions in the store!

Cool Season Hardy and Semi-Hardy Vegetables:

list of cold season hardy and semi-hardy veggie crops

wrapping tree wrap around sapling in late fall

Winterizing new evergreens and trees

Wrap New Trees

We recommend new trees, also known as saplings, are wrapped with a protective tree wrap or vinyl guards end of October to help protect against sun scald and frost crack. If you tree does experience winter damage it’s not necessarily terminal for the tree but can increase chances of disease and insect damage. The wrap can also help deter animal damage during winter.

Wrap up to the first tier of branches coming out of the truck and slightly overlap the wrap as you go up the tree.

Remove the wrap in spring after freezing temps have passed because you don’t want to trap moisture and heat when it warms up. There are wraps that state they can be used all year-round so read packages before keeping on all year. This should be continued every year until the bark begins to thicken and roughen.

Trees with higher susceptibility to winter damage:

Apple, Beech, Crabapple, Elm, Horse Chestnut, Linden, Oak, Walnut, and Willow.

 

Guard Evergreens Against Harsh Winter Weather and Animal Damage

We love the addition of evergreens to almost any yard. The year-round texture, color and refuge for wildlife is something you can’t replicate with other trees. Plus they look great covered in fresh snow and holiday lights.

The same winter weather and snow that contrasts nicely with our beautiful green and picturesque evergreens can sometimes cause damage.

Protection Against Winter Air and Snow


1. Water Thoroughly

Keep evergreens well hydrated throughout the year. Proper watering depends on soil drainage, weather, and size of the plant. Average is around 5 gallons of water a week to two weeks for shrubs and trees. If the soil is still moist, wait to water. Water thoroughly one day and not every day. Continue to provide ample moisture until the ground freezes.

2. Cover Soil

Surround evergreens with a fresh layer of insulating mulch to regulate the soil temperature and seal in moisture. Once the ground freezes, the roots cannot replace lost water, and sun and wind can deplete it from the foliage, a double whammy for your evergreens.

3. Spray with Wilt Stop®

Evergreen leaves have more surface from which to lose water, so they are more susceptible to winter desiccation (drying). This can be prevented with an anti-desiccant spray like Wilt Stop that helps to seal in moisture and protect your broad and narrow-leafed evergreens.

Wilt Stop is it is natural and non-toxic— made from the resin of pine trees—and it forms a soft, clear and flexible barrier over foliage to prevent your evergreen from drying out.

4. Build a Burlap Barrier

If evergreens are planted on the South/Southwest side of your home, they may be getting the worst of the winter winds and scalding winter sun a damaging combo. Watch the video above for best examples.

Post sturdy metal or wooden stakes at an angle around the evergreen trees, then wrap with burlap, making sure to keep the top open for light and air flow. The natural, porous fiber of the burlap or similar fabric allows some wind to pass through, making it resilient enough to withstand the wind, but minimizing the strongest, coldest gusts from reaching your evergreen. This can also minimize the accumulation of large amounts of drifting, damaging snow. When the snow starts to accumulate in the winter it helps keep rabbits from being up to sneak under and munch on your plant when they are wanting to start eating anything they can find. Use of animal repellents is also recommended if you have a large number of animals around your home.

5. Buddy-Tie Evergreen Branches

This is the same philosophy that is used when we buddy-tape a weaker, sprained or broken finger to a stronger one for support.

Some evergreens have multiple leaders or two dominant branches. On their own, they can be more susceptible to breakage from heavy snow and ice at the area where the trunk branches into two.

By joining the two leaders approximately halfway up from the weak crotch area, you give them stability and strength. You can use strips of strong cloth (the rest of your burlap) or nylon stockings for the bind.

Remove buddy-tie before spring growth to allow movement and prevent girdling.

blooming white hydrangea shrubs

TOP 5 TIPS for Summer Plantings

1.MOST IMPORTANT! – WATERING

Proper watering is vital to plant survival. Proper watering doesn’t mean watering everyday. At least 1″ of water a week spring through fall season is the recommended amount. Frequency will vary depending on type of soil you have. For example, clay soils need infrequent yet thorough watering. This is because the water doesn’t percolate quickly through the soil. However in a sandy soil, water percolates easily. This requires thorough and more frequent watering.

Every one to two weeks, a slow stream of hose water for 5-10 min around the root zone should give you a deep thorough watering of trees and shrubs.

Perennials should be watered every 3-7 days depending on soil type and weather.

Check the soil regularly by pushing your finger a couple inches into the soil before you water. If the soil is moist, wait to water. Remember, even drought tolerant plants need a couple of years to become fully established and need deep thorough watering. Searing heat and windy days may require increased watering frequency.

2. PROPER PLANTING TECHNIQUE

Make sure to follow our planting guide (See image below) on the back of our Winter Hardiness Warranty Slip that comes with all trees and shrubs. Mix in compost and slow release fertilizer with beneficial fungi, bacteria, and nutrients, like Bio-Tone, into your native soil to help newly planted shrubs, trees, and perennials get off on a strong start.
shrub and tree planting-guide

3. MULCHING

Use 2-3 inches of mulch around your plants to help retain water and keep soil cool during hot and dry days. Mulch around the root zone and keep the mulch 2 inches away from the stem or trunk of the plant.

4.READ THE LEAVES

Summer-planted plants may wilt regularly if you are under- or over-watering, or from heat stress. Water sensitive plants, especially new perennials with shallow root systems, will tell you if they need more water. If there is slight wilting during the day yet they have moist soil, they may be succumbing to heat/light stress if no other signs of pests or disease are present.

If they are still wilting after the sun is going down, they are most likely under-watered if the soil is dry or the roots have already been stressed from over-watering. The best method to quickly learn how much water you plant needs is to check it regularly. Your plant will start establishing it’s roots and watering frequency may decrease.

5. PLANTING TIME

Planting on a cloudy day is less stressful on new plants. If the cloudy day is followed by a day or two of rain, all the better! You can also plant in the evening. That gives it half a day before it gets blasted with the summer sun.

We also made a video of planting a shrub to show how to properly plant.

Additional landscape plant heat stress remedies:

Vacation needed! Tips to help your outdoor plants while you’re away.

We all need to get away once and awhile! Some plants may do just fine with a longer vacation away like succulents and established drought tolerant plants. There are others, especially plants in containers, that need more attention before you leave and while you are away.

 

Here are a few ideas if you will be away from your plant family.

1. Move your full sun annuals to a more shady area if you aren’t gone more than a few days. Avoid deep shade.

2. Water your containers deeply a couple days before you head out to make sure there are no dry areas in the soil.

3. Add an extra layer of mulch on the soil to help trap the moisture. Be sure to take off this extra layer when you get back to avoid any issues with the soil holding moisture too long when you get back to watering regularly.

4. Use Soil Moist- it’s little granules that are worked into the soil that hold moisture, like a sponge, and will release water once the soil starts drying. This may help reduce watering throughout the season and help if you are only gone for a week or less *. A little goes a long way with Soil Moist and lasts a couple seasons! This product is usually used in containers but can also be used in the ground around plants that need more consistent moisture.

5. Use dispensers that screw onto recycled plastic bottles to release water into the soil as needed. Experiment with them first to see how long the water may last. There are other products out there but we like these dispensers since we can reuse bottles and they don’t take up much space when not being used.

6. If you frequently forget to water or spend a lot of time away from home, invest in self-watering pots like the Aquapots by Proven Winners. In addition to reducing the amount of water and times you need to water, they will help extend soil moisture if you need be away for a few days!

 

*Remember that due to weather it can be difficult to keep your plants watered despite some of these tricks.  If you are really worried, hopefully a neighbor or friend can come water your plants while you are away if there is no rain. Check out local services or possibly Craigslist for people who can help water your plants while you are away. Maybe a local lawn mower can help out as well with a quick lesson on proper watering.

bloomstruck hydrangea

Acidic Soil Loving Plants


Three Plant Needs

Water, Sun, and Soil (Nutrients).

Where does soil pH level come in?

Plants need nutrients and have a balanced relationship with elements in the soil which will contribute to the health of plants.

Plants also have pH level preferences. The soil pH level can affect the uptake of nutrients. Depending on the plant, if the soil pH is not ideal then you may have a stunted and unhealthy plant and it’s not because there isn’t nutrients in the soil.

Put Away the Fertilizer For Now

If you are noticing any issues like yellowing leaves, no fruit production, growth seems stunted, and not blooming, checking the pH is highly recommended first before using fertilizers.

For example, you may add fertilizer to your garden but it still has little effect on your plant health if for some reason your soil pH is off. Too much fertilizer can also inhibit nutrient uptake because of soil nutrient imbalances. In addition, nitrogen and phosphorous runoff is a huge environmental pollutant, especially to our waterways and lakes.

Testing your soil nutrients is good gardening practice and could save you money in the long run. If you know your soil pH is within the proper range and your plant is showing nutrient deficiency symptoms, use a slow release fertilizer (like Bio-tone) for in-ground plants to avoid excessive nutrients and run-off.

What is Acidic Soil?

The range of pH is from 0-14. Acidic soil is considered anything below 7.

Acidity ranges:
Slight  6.0
Strong  5.5
Very Strong 5.0
Extremely 4.5

Many plants like to grow within the 6-7.5 pH range for optimal nutrient uptake.

In Southern MN, you may notice a lot of clay soil with lime, which tends to be more alkaline 7 pH or above. Water coming from hoses in this area are usually more basic, which increases soil alkalinity.

Other factors that affect soil acidity are rainfall, nitrogen fertilizers, plants (like pines), and subsoil acidity. The best way to know your soil acidity level is a quick home test.

Acidic Soil Loving Plants

Plants that prefer slight acidity, 6.0-7.0 range:

Most plants! Each plant has a pH range it can tolerate and many plants can handle down to 6.0.

Plants that prefer strong acidity, 5.5:

Trees and Shrubs: 
Raspberry 5.5-7.0, Pears 5.5-7.0, Peaches 5.5-7.0

Vegetable and Fruits:
Potato 5.5, Squash 5.5, Garlic 5.5-8.0, Carrot 5.5-7.0, Sweet Peppers 5.5-7.0, Tomatoes 5.5-7.5, Cauliflower 5.5-7.5, Cucumber, 5.5-7.0, Pumpkin 5.5-7.0, Eggplant 5.5-6.5, Sweet Potatoes 5.2-6.0, Rhubarb 5.5-7.0

Flowers:
Begonia 5.5-7.0, Black-Eyed Susan 5.5-7.0, Clematis 5.5-7.0, Marigold 5.5-7.5, Nasturtium 5.5-7.5, Pansy 5.5-6.5, Snapdragon 5.5-7.0, Zinnia 5.5-7.0, Fox Gloves 5.5-6.5, Cyclamen 5.5-6.5

Plants that prefer very strong acidity, 5.0:

Trees and Shrubs:
Spruce 5.0-6.0, Juniper 5.0-6.0, Blackberry 5.0-6.0, Apple, 5.0-6.5, Serviceberry 5.0-6.0, Fothergilla 5.0-6.0, Magnolia 5.0-6.0

Fruits:
Strawberries 5.5-6.5, Grapes 5.5-7.0

Flowers:
Coneflowers 5.0-7.5, Cosmos 5.0-8.0, Gladiolus 5.0-7.0, Lupine 5.0-6.5

Plants that prefer extremely strong acidity, 4.5:

Trees and Shrubs:
Azalea 4.5-6, Blueberry 4.5-6, Hydrangea-Blue flowered 4.0-5.0, White Pine 4.5-6.0, Rhododendron 4.5-6
Flowers – Lily-of-the-Valley 4.5-6.0

Plants have a range of pH that they will grow in and thrive. Those plants that have very strong and an extremely strong acidic soil needs, may need additional amendments to keep soil pH down.

Changing Soil pH

The best way to improve soil pH is through addition of amendments and adding organic material. To increase acidity add sulfur and to decrease acidity add lime. Add both of these amendments in small stages and increments as to not shock the plant if it’s already planted. Read the instructions on any product you use to properly adjust the pH.

Favorite supplements to adjust the soil pH that will not shock the plants
if used as directed:

Epsoma Soil Acidifer – Organic, Safe, long-lasting, and won’t burn the plants if used as directed. Repeat in 60 day intervals if needed.

Epsoma Berry Tone for Berries – Organic, Good if you need to slightly increase acidity, Use early and late spring, Use on blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, Will help produce bigger plants and more berries.

Adjust Soil pH with Organic Matter

Add any type of compost to your garden beds. This is best to do in the fall since it takes more time to adjust the soil pH using this method but feel free to feed plants with top dressing of compost during the growing season. Reach for compost first when wanting to add nutrients, improving soil aeration, improving water retention, and adjusting pH.

Modifying your soil’s pH will take some time. Depending on the type of soil you are working with, the addition of supplements and organic material may be needed year-after-year.

If you test your soil and notice you’re having troubles with keeping your soil more acidic, don’t fight it! Choose plants that will tolerate more neutral or alkaline soils. There are plenty out there!

moon in the sky with tree silouettes

Gardening by the Moon – A Fascinating Lore

We have all heard of the moon effecting the water tides but have your heard of it effecting soil moisture?

From The Farmers Almanac, gardening by the moon “is an age-old practice of completing chores around the farm according the the moon phases and that the moon governs moisture.”

Growing in Popularity

It is growing in popularity for various reasons but prominently because people are trying to find ways to stay in touch with nature. If people pay attention to the seasons, weather conditions, and natural patterns they can start to feel more in touch with their environment and surroundings.

There are certain garden centers that plant solely on moon phases and swear by it. We have yet to find current research projects that proves it to be more effective. However, we can find anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness online. To be in touch with your environment and weather conditions is an important part of your gardening success. Even if it is gardening by the moon’s phases or not. On this website , they list some sources of research, anecdotal accounts, and their findings for gardening by the moons phases.

General Rules

The over arching rule is that people plant specific crops based on the phase of the moon. It is also believed there are better times to prune, build fences, wean animals, fish, etc. What do they mean by better? Everything from better yields, increased growth, stronger fences, juicier meat, and even to more flavorful produce.

The general rules, from The Farmers Almanac website, is “the new and first-quarter phases, known as the light of the Moon, are considered good for planting above-ground crops, putting down sod, grafting trees, and transplanting.

From full Moon through the last quarter, or the dark of the Moon, is the best time for killing weeds, thinning, pruning, mowing, cutting timber, and planting below-ground crops.”

Working on your garden and land by the moon does seem like a good way to keep track of when to do certain tasks. If it produces better yields and healthier plants that would be an amazing bonus!

Conditions Are Important

If you choose to plant by the moon please remember that other planting conditions still need to be paid attention to.

  •  Soil temperature
  •  Present and forecasted weather conditions
  •  Moisture levels
  •  Soil type
  •  Specific planting needs of the crops you want to grow

 

If you have any questions about when to plant something please contact us or stop in and chat about your gardening goals!

DO YOU PLANT BY THE MOON? Email us or message us on our Drummers Facebook page and let us know!

Websites where you can find more information about gardening by the moon:
The Farmers Alamanac
Read about some moon phase gardening research here.

praying mantis looking at camera

Beneficial Bugs

We may view bugs as a nuisance because they are eating our plants or intruding in and around our homes. The Spotted Wing Drosophila or Japanese Beetle are two examples of pesky bugs that can cause damage to our beloved plants. I could go on and on about bugs that cause us major gardening headaches and heartache at times.

Many of us know about the beneficial pollinators like bees or the pest killing dragonflies, butterflies, and spiders but let’s look at some bugs you may not have heard that can help us in our fight against nasty pests. These bugs aren’t usually a quick fix nor are they a complete eradication pest control, which in most cases, isn’t needed. If we look at the positive of beneficial bugs, we can help balance the ecosystem without using pesticides or comprising your crop with harmful chemicals.

Diversity of plants in your yard is the most important aspect of supporting all beneficial insect life so here is a limited list of plants that are proven to attract them.

Plants that attract beneficial insects:

Sunflower: Ladybugs, Syrphid Flies, Parasitic Wasps, Spined Soldier Bugs, Minute Pirate Bugs

Yarrow: Honey bees, Ladybugs, Hover Flies, Parasitic Wasps, Lacewing

Dill: Ladybugs, Lacewing, Hover Flies, Parasitic Wasps

Clover: Tachinid Flies, Parasitic Wasps, , Ground Beetles, Big-Eyed Bugs, Hover Flies, Ladybugs, Honey Bees

Fennel: Parasitic Wasps, Hover Flies, Tachinid Flies, Damsel Bugs, Ladybugs, Lacewing, Big-Eyed Bugs

Cosmos: Lacewing, Hover Flies, Parasitic Wasps, Big-Eyed Bugs

Black-eyed Susan: Parasitic Wasps, Honey Bees, Hover Flies

Here are a couple beneficial bugs you can add to help mitigate aphid, mosquitoes, mites, and many other soft-bodied insect.

Praying Mantis

praying mantis looking at camera

Praying mantis

The Praying mantis would be an insect you would need to introduce and is a predator of many insects, mites, and eggs. They have a really healthy appetite so be careful if you use other beneficial insects or worried about native bugs being eaten such as the Ladybug which we will get to in a moment. When they are young, the praying mantis will eat mosquitoes, aphids, leafhoppers, caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects. As adults, they will eat beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and other pests in your garden! If you are worried about introducing an insect not native to Minnesota, you need not worry. The praying mantis will not survive the winter here. There are multiple sites that you can buy the praying mantis egg cases with instructions on how many you would need and the best time to use them.

Ladybug A.k.a Lady Beetles

Ladybugs swarming

Ladybugs

The native ladybugs are great predators to aphids and other soft bodied pests, mites, and eggs. You may not see native Ladybug anymore compared to the Asian Lady Beetle that was introduced in the South. Their purpose was to eat aphids from crops but made their way up North. You might not be as familiar with their larva either so check out the pictures here. You can buy Ladybugs to introduce to your garden but you have to make sure they stay there to eat and hopefully lay eggs! Many sites state to put them in the garden at night since they won’t fly at night and water around the area well!